Great literature challenges basic beliefs and values. I doubt I’ll ever accept zombies as subject matter for literary fiction, but M.R. Carey wrote a moral lexicon in the setting I least expected to find anything of value. The noun ‘zombie’ never appears, replaced with ‘hungry’ or ‘hungries.’ But the nature of the infected bodies is clear.
“THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS” begins with the standard threat to the human race and the struggle to survive by a small ensemble of protagonists. What sets the book apart and pushed me to read past the first chapter was the author’s twist. This tale is told from a hungry’s point of view.
Carey sets the scene through a brilliant young girl’s point of view. She is apparently living in a sort of concentration camp. And by the time the reasons for her incarceration become clear, the reader is endeared to the innocent child and just as connected to her favorite teacher.
Isolated in a temporary army compound, a small group survive a massive assault and set out to reach what they believe to be their home base. Led by a grizzled army sergeant, and a single surviving private, a school teacher and scientist march through a decimated world. Along with them is a girl named Melanie, or test subject number one, depending on your point of view.
Bouncing from one peril to the next, relationships change. Fear is ever present while trust is forced to grow like the fungus that drives the hungries. Basic moralities are challenged as the scientist among them is close to a breakthrough that may save the human race. But is she an Alexander Fleming, or a Joseph Mengele?
This is Melanie’s story. And it’s a five-star read.